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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Doctor doggie

Buddy (with his owner) makes hospital rounds

Margaret Fleet knew she and Buddy were a match the second she saw his photo on the Internet. The beagle-basset hound mix was up for adoption, and Fleet, who had one of her dogs die 15 months earlier, couldn’t resist Buddy’s photo.

Susan and Norman Stones<BR><BR>With
With Margaret Fleet (left), Buddy greets Becky Baldwin, who is recovering from a broken hip at the Lake Taylor Transitional Care Center, Norfolk, Va. Fleet and Baldwin are members of First Lutheran Church, Norfolk.
But what Fleet didn’t realize was that not only would Buddy helpher during her own rough times, he also would inspire her to begin volunteering.

Now, Fleet and Buddy make about eight visits a month to hospitals and other care facilities as members of the South Eastern Virginia Therapy Dogs group.

“I’ve had dogs all my life, but Buddy was the first one I ever took to obedience school,” said Fleet, a member of First Lutheran Church, Norfolk, Va. “And during one session we were told about the therapy dog program. I had never done anything like it before, but it seemed right.”

What Fleet learned was that dogs can help the recoveryprocess for many people. A visit by a dog can lower stress levels, which can lower blood pressure, and it also boosts morale.

Fleet also found that it’s not just patients who enjoy the visits.

“We have to make sure Buddy visits the nurses and doctors too,” she said. “They love it when we’re there.”

There are similar programs throughout the country, and those interested can call Therapy Dogs International Inc. at (973) 252-9800.


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